Injuries from cosmetics, shampoo and other personal care products send one young child to a U.S. emergency room every two hours, according to a new study that suggests many parents may need to do more to keep these things out of tiny hands.
Researchers estimated that almost 65,000 children under 5 years old were treated at U.S. emergency rooms for cosmetic-related-injuries from 2002 to 2016, roughly equivalent to one case every two hours.
In 86% of the cases, children were poisoned by ingesting or handling the products, the study team reports in Clinical Pediatrics. Most of the remaining cases involved chemical burns.
And, almost three in five cases involved infants and toddlers under 2 years old. At this age, kids can’t read labels and tend to explore by putting things in their mouth, said Rebecca McAdams of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
“They see a bottle with a colorful label that looks or smells like something they are allowed to eat or drink, so they try to open it and take a swallow,” McAdams, a coauthor of the study, said by email. “When the bottle turns out to be nail polish remover instead of juice, or lotion instead of yogurt, serious injuries can occur.”
Almost everything parents might keep in the bathroom for grooming appeared to send at least some children to the hospital.
Most often, the cause of cosmetic-related injuries was nail care products, accounting for 28% of incidents, followed by hair products at 27% and skin care items at 25%, the study found.
The single most dangerous product appeared to be nail polish remover, which was involved in about 17% of cosmetic-related injuries treated in emergency rooms during the study period. Nail polish was responsible for another 9% of injuries.
Almost 13% of cases involved perfume and cologne.
Hair relaxers that chemically alter the texture of curly hair to make it easier to straighten accounted for about 10% of injuries, while shampoo and conditioner were responsible for another 7% of cases.
Skin creams and lotions, meanwhile, made up about 10% of cosmetic-related injuries in the study.
In the majority of cases, children were treated in the emergency room and released. Very few of them were injured so seriously that they needed to be admitted to the hospital.
One limitation of the study is that it may have underestimated the total number of injuries by including only cases that required emergency room care, the study team notes. It doesn’t include injuries treated at home, through calls to poison control centers or at physician offices and urgent care clinics.
Even so, the results suggest that parents need to think more carefully about how they store grooming items, said Dr. Lois Kay Lee, an emergency medicine physician at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School who wasn’t involved in the study.
“These products are commonly used by older family members and are often left in places easily accessible to young children,” Lee said by email. “They also aren’t packaged to be child proof.”
Like medications, parents should store personal care products in a cabinet that’s impossible for young kids to reach, Lee advised. And, as with drugs, parents should get medical help immediately if they think kids have ingested grooming items.
“If a child ingests a cosmetic product or it gets into the eyes, parents should call their local Poison Control Center for further medical guidance,” Lee said. “If the child is obviously having difficulty swallowing or complaining of throat/mouth pain, is developing a rash, or has complaints of eye pain and tearing, the child should be taken to the emergency department for further evaluation.”